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Prior to the March 2020 onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Town was experiencing an increased demand for municipal and school services that was difficult to address with available revenue. Similar to many Massachusetts communities, the cost of providing services has outpaced revenue growth allowed under Proposition 2 ½. The global pandemic and inflationary environment further exacerbated these budget pressures.
With approval of Hingham’s 2021 Annual Town Meeting, resources were added across the Town to help students recover from COVID-19 and provide critical capacity to school and municipal operations. These resources included 32 positions in the School Department, four positions in municipal departments, and funds to support a new field maintenance program and address shortfalls in the legal and snow and ice budgets. To balance this large increase in FY22, the Town used approximately $5 million in one-time federal funds and local reserves.
Understanding that we were creating a structural deficit, the Town formed a task force to begin developing a long-term financial management plan. Through this Sustainable Budget Task Force, municipal and school leaders worked together to explore revenue opportunities and identify ways to fund the Town’s budget going forward.
At Hingham’s 2022 Annual Town Meeting, in accordance with recommendations from the Task Force and in acknowledgement of the continued pandemic, the Town chose to maintain the added positions and services, once again employ $3.8 million in available federal and local one-time monies to balance the FY23 budget, and begin planning for an override in FY24.
As a result, the Town is entering the FY24 budget season with a significant deficit ($6.0 million as of early March 2023). To bridge the funding gap and avoid further deepening the deficit, the Town must either reduce services to balance the FY24 budget or raise additional revenue through an override to maintain current educational and municipal operations.
The Select Board, School Committee, and Advisory Committee all unanimously recommended an FY24 budget that includes a proposed $7,890,467 override to fund the operating budgets of the Town and Hingham Public Schools. To pass, the override requires approval at Annual Town Meeting on April 24, 2023 and on the ballot at the Annual Town Election on April 29, 2023.
The Select Board, School Committee, and Advisory Committee all unanimously recommended an FY24 budget that includes a proposed $7,890,467 override to fund the operating budgets of the Town and Hingham Public Schools. If approved this spring, the override would go into effect on July 1, 2023.
Yes, several different levels and structures of overrides were considered. The Town needs just over $6 million to continue providing the same level of services we currently provide, so that makes up the bulk of the $7.89 million proposed override. At this time, the Select Board, School Committee, Advisory Committee are not recommending service cuts, which is what an override number smaller than $6 million would entail.
In addition to the $6 million to keep what we have in place, the Select Board, School Committee, and Advisory Committee recommended funding $1.9 million of the total additional $3.2 million requested by departments (to enhance services/capacity). The $1.9 million represents the most critical of those requests. The Town Administrator outlined the municipal requests on February 16 (slides 16-32 here, or the video is here starting at 1:55:40). The School Department also outlined its needs in many budget documents, including the presentation from February 27.
The Town is trying to balance its responsibility to provide quality services with the impact on taxpayers. With regards to taxpayer impact, we have made a concerted effort to increase awareness of the Town's property tax exemptions and relief programs. In addition, the Select Board advanced three warrant articles this spring (Articles 16, 17, and 18) that will further expand tax relief for Hingham homeowners.
The Select Board is the only body that can place an override question on an election ballot, so the Board determines the override amount in that way. However, there are additional steps in the process, including the Advisory Committee making budget recommendations to Town Meeting (via Article 6 in the Warrant) and Town Meeting adopting a balanced budget.
On March 15, 2023, the Select Board voted to place the following question on the official ballot for the April 29, 2023 Town election:
The Advisory Committee's FY24 budget recommendations to Town Meeting (via Article 6 in the Warrant) also reflect the proposed $7,890,467 override.
We have developed a Tax Impact Calculator that residents can use to enter their street address and view the estimated FY24 property tax increase resulting from the proposed override.
Without the override, the median Hingham taxpayer, whose property is currently assessed at $898,850, would have an estimated FY24 tax bill of $9,634. With the override, the median taxpayer's FY24 estimated tax bill would increase by approximately $751 to $10,385.
For more detailed information related to estimated property tax impacts of the proposed override, please click here.
If approved, the override would go into effect for FY24, which begins on July 1, 2023.
If the override does not pass this spring, the Town will need to contract services and reduce personnel to lower its FY24 expenditures by $6,015,216 beginning July 1, 2023. Approximately $3.9 million, including 46.1 FTEs, will come from the School Department and approximately $2.1 million, including 19.4 FTEs, will come from the municipal departments. The reductions would affect a number of service areas as outlined below.
Hingham Public Schools
General Government Services
Culture & Recreation
The override requires two separate votes this spring.
The first vote is at Annual Town Meeting on Monday, April 24, 2023 at 7pm at Hingham High School. This is an in-person event only. The override vote will be part of Warrant Article 6 and it requires a majority vote to pass.
The second vote is at the Town Election on Saturday, April 29, 2023. The override question will be Question 1 (there is only one ballot question this spring) and it requires a majority vote to pass. For the Town Election, you can vote in person on Election Day or you can vote by mail ahead of time.
You must be a registered voter in Hingham to participate in Town Meeting and the Town Election this spring. The last day to register to vote for these events is Friday, April 14, 2023.